If you haven’t heard, the struggling Royals are gearing up for a possible firesale at the non-waiver trade deadline.
Sources told Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports that Kansas City is “quietly” telling clubs that they going to talk about trading their assets.
The Royals do have some trade chips that could make for a busy summer. Heyman does mention them in his story, but here is a look at where these players could go on or before July 31.
Mike Moustakas — After being a key cog to their World Series title in 2015 and testing free agency this past winter, the Royals’ top star and third baseman came back to the club on a one-year, $5.6 million deal that included $2.2 million in incentives. Moustakas is putting together a nice season so far, slashing .282/.332/.503 with 10 home runs and 31 RBI in 50 games. He would be a clear rental for any club since he is 29 years old and wants to get paid after being snubbed of a big contract following a 38-homer season in 2017. In the offseason, the issue for Moustakas was that contending teams, particularly in the American League, didn’t need a third baseman. However, the National League might have some contenders because each division has four teams that are only separated by 4 1⁄2 games at the most. Among those teams are the Braves, Cardinals, Mets and Dodgers, who could use a third baseman of Moustakas’ caliber. But, the Royals ideally want a nice haul in return, which could deter these clubs from going after him.
Danny Duffy — Another member of the Royals’ recent success, Duffy has gone from a being a reliever to a promising young ace, and now to a struggling starter that has a bunch of question marks. Because he is in the latter stage, teams are worried to try to take on Duffy and the remaining money on his five-year, $65 million contract, which he signed just before last season. In addition, teams would not part with prospects the Royals would ideally want in a deal. The only possible team that would be remotely interested in hm is the Phillies, which checked in on him during the offseason. However, it will be unlikely that he gets moved unless he turns it around in the next two months.
Kelvin Herrera — One of the unsung heros during the Royals’ run to the title, Herrera is performing the best right now out of all the trade chips and will probably bring back the best package of prospects, according to Heyman. The 28-year-old closer and two-time All-Star has notched 10 saves in 11 opportunities this season and 36 saves in his last 42 chances since 2016. Like Moustakas, he would clearly be a rental since he is playing on a one-year, $7.94 million deal and is a free agent after this season. When it comes to relievers, contending teams are always interested in adding more arms to their bullpen. The Astros, Braves, Phillies and Diamondbacks are teams that could use Herrera’s services, whether it be as a closer or setup man, down the stretch.
Ian Kennedy — After their World Series win, the Royals needed to find replacements for a couple of starters that left via free agency. They managed to do that by inking a dependable, durable Kennedy to a five-year, $70 million deal. Kennedy, who had made 30 or more starts in six straight seasons prior to signing with the Royals, managed to achieve that feat in his first two seasons with the club, but has now got to the point where he is not performing like a guy getting paid $16 million per year should be performing (5.11 ERA in 11 starts). This has tremendously hurt his trade value and has put the Royals in a position where they will probably not get anything great in return for him and will have to eat his contract.
Whit Merrifield — If the Royals are “open to anything,” as one source of Heyman’s suggested, they may look to deal Merrifield — a promising young second baseman who is only in his third season in the big leagues. In that short amount of time, the 29-year-old Merrifield led the AL in stolen bases with 34 during a breakout campaign last year, when he hit 19 homers and had 78 RBI in 145 games. Though he is 29, his contract is friendly because he is not eligible for arbitration until 2020 and is a free agent in 2023. The catch, though, is that the Royals ideally want a big return for Merrifield if they are going to make him available. The other issue is that not a lot of contending teams need a second baseman or believe that is a player who will put them over the top. The only exception might be the Mariners because if they make the playoffs, they will without star Robinson Cano (suspended 80 games for violating MLB’s joint drug agreement) for the postseason. However, the Mariners still have a poor farm system and they can always put Dee Gordon at second.
Jon Jay — The Royals brought Jay aboard this year on a one-year, $3 million deal in hopes he could play well as a leadoff hitter and corner outfielder. The nine-year veteran has done that so far, slashing .293/.351/.337 in 51 games. Because he has been effective, the Royals might be able to flip him for a couple of prospects. As far as possible landing spots, the Nationals could use him because they are still without Adam Eaton and he can give them a boost at the top of the lineup.
Lucas Duda — Like Jay, the Royals took a chance on Duda in hopes he could return to his once-promising power-hitting form. Though they only signed him to a one-year, $3.5 million contract, Duda has only hit four homers with 19 RBI in 37 games before going on the DL due to plantar faciitis in his right foot. Right now, there is no timetable for his return, so his trade value is basically non-existent. Even if he was healthy, it would be hard for the Royals to get anything in return for him.
Jason Hammel — Before last season, the Royals signed the veteran starter to a two-year, $16 million deal with a mutual option hoping he could do what he did during the Cubs’ run to a World Series title in 2016. Unfortunately, he has gone 10-18 with a 5.28 ERA in 43 starts, so his trade value has plummeted as a result.